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Monday, Mar 25, 2019
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Group helps family of deceased soldier fulfill his dream

LITHIA - The Oquendo family spent a couple of years stationed outside New York City, but every time they got a few hours to slip over to Broadway for a show, there were no seats available. Decorated Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Oquendo always said he’d take his girls and wife back some day. But cancer took him before he could fulfill that dream. Thanks to Orlando-based non-profit Operation Giveback, Oquendo’s wife Dora and girls Emily, 11, and Abigail, 14, will soon make an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City, staying at the Plaza Hotel, just like Oquendo always wanted. The 1991 Plant City High graduate, who moved back to Hillsborough County after running out of treatment options, had been away on Army assignments for 20 years, his wife said. The couple had often enjoyed live theater performances in the various cities where they lived, but had never had the opportunity to take their girls to a show.
Dora Oquendo submitted her husband’s story to Operation Giveback and won. The Oquendo family is the very first recipient of the non-profit’s Make a Dream Come True award. She received the award May 11 at the University of Central Florida in the presence of about 2,000 runners there for a benefit for wounded warriors and families of fallen heroes. When they hit Broadway, probably in August, the Oquendos plan to see Momma Mia, at Emily’s request, and possibly another show. And they plan to make the trip to the sight of the 9/11 terrorist attack to see the memorial that replaced the World Trade Center twin towers. “We were stationed in New York when it happened, so it would be nice to be able to see what they just finished there,” Dora Oquendo said. “This trip will mean so much to me, because I can share Paul’s dream for him,” she said. “I know he is looking down and is smiling at this dream come true. My girls are going to be so excited. We have told them lots of stories of New York.”

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